Gulf Power announces new solar centers, but how will it affect your bill?

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PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — As part of Florida Power and Light Company, Gulf Power announced Thursday the start of construction on two new solar energy centers in Northwest Florida, including one in Escambia County.

The Cotton Creek Solar Energy Center, located off Bogia Road west of Highway 29 in North Escambia County, will be 639 acres and produce 74.5-megawatts of zero-emissions energy. That’s enough enough to power 15,000 homes annually, according to Gulf Power.

Another solar center is now under construction in Jackson County. Gulf Power says the two sites combined will generate enough energy to power up to 30,000 homes.

The centers will also reduce emissions of pollutants, according to Gulf Power, the equivalent of taking 26,000 cars off the roads every year.

“As part of FPL, we’re ushering in a more sustainable future for Northwest Florida by delivering cleaner, lower-cost energy and increasing reliability while keeping costs down for our customers,” said Mike Spoor, Gulf Power vice president, in a news release. “With each solar farm that we build, we’re reducing our carbon footprint and providing cleaner air for our region, ensuring we keep Northwest Florida beautiful for generations to come, while also benefitting the local economy with the contribution of hundreds of thousands of additional tax dollars.”

But how will these solar centers affect Gulf Power customers’ power bills and who is going to pay for it?

These are questions WKRG News 5 asked Gulf Power spokeswoman Kimberly Blair.

“There is a cost associated with it and that cost would be part of a rate review that will be coming up that we would be seeking permission from the Public Service Commission to pass on to our customers,” Blair said.

However, Gulf Power believes the renewable energy will help offset those costs.

“We’re not having to pay for our fuel in order to create the energy, so because of that, over the lifetime of this project, there will be enormous cost savings for our customers,” Blair said.

It’s unclear at this time if those savings will be felt once the centers are paid off.

Blair said despite being in rural areas, the solar centers can help the economy right away by providing hundreds of jobs in the community during peak construction times.

Additional solar farms are in the early phases of development across Northwest Florida, including:

  • First City Solar Energy Center in North Escambia County
  • Blackwater River Solar Energy Center in Santa Rosa County
  • Chipola River Solar Energy Center and Flowers Creek Solar Energy Center in Calhoun County
  • Apalachee Solar Energy Center in Jackson County

 “We’re really excited to be a part of Florida Power and Light now and to be able to bring a more sustainable future to Northwest Florida,” Blair said.

Each solar center takes about eight to 10 months to complete.

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